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MARTHA SEZ: ‘The situation was exacerbated by the fact that beavers were involved’

Summer in Keene Valley! To paraphrase Omar khayyam, this is paradise enough. Still, everyplace on Earth, and probably even beyond, has its own localized set of problems.

Just this morning, at 7 o’clock, my friend Jenny called me on her cell phone. She was walking two dogs around the school pond, also known as Lake Winifred, or the beaver pond, when she ran into some trouble.

One of the dogs was her own Labrador retriever, Chloe. As a rule, Chloe is exceptionally well-behaved and ladylike, but I suppose everyone is subject at one time or another to peer pressure, and I am sorry to say that Jenny’s cousin’s dog, Red, a chow mix, was providing a terrible example. Red went splashing into the pond and would not come out again.

At first, Chloe resisted temptation, although, as you know, a Labrador retriever is always ready to get wet. Go swimming? No problem. But Jenny was saying no, and Chloe listened. At first.

After a while Red’s barking and splashing was just too much to resist, and in she went.

Now there were two dogs in the pond, and Jenny could see that Chloe was following Red’s lead. The only way to get Chloe out was to get Red out first, but Red just kept swimming around, refusing to even look at Jenny, let alone acknowledge that she was ordering him to come out this minute. It was almost as if Red had gone deaf. Maybe he had water in his ears, is all I can think of.

Generally, a chow is not an avid water dog, and Red, although a young, enthusiastic type, is normally obedient, so why this uncharacteristic behavior?

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that beavers were involved. Two beavers were smacking the water with their tails, making a lot of noise, then diving underwater, only to reappear some distance away and begin slapping the water again. All of this hubbub was no doubt provoking the dogs, who decided that something had to be done to restore order to Lake Winifred. You can’t let beavers get away with this kind of thing, or they’ll create a disturbance any time they feel like it, is the way I interpret Red’s and Chloe’s thinking on the matter. That is why they took it upon themselves to swim around trying to bite the beavers, as nicely as they could, in order to teach them a lesson.

They probably thought it was unreasonable of Jenny to urge them to stop their law enforcement activities prematurely, which would after all allow the beavers to feel as if they had won, thereby encouraging their bad, water-slapping behavior.

Jenny, on the other hand, had to get to work; she was opening a vacation home for summer residents who were expected soon. This is another element of life in Keene Valley that people might not always think about. People who live here all year spend a great deal of time and effort to make tourists and summer residents feel that life is heavenly in the North Country.

Which it is, don’t get me wrong. But, giving nature her due, there is still plenty of work to be done behind the scenes to keep it that way. Jenny knows that mouse nests and spider webs and cluster flies and dust don’t clean themselves, and so, just like hundreds of other workers around the Adirondack Park, she was anxious to get to work.

“If you drive your car over here,” she told me, “maybe Red will think he can go for a ride. He loves to go for a ride. Then he’ll get out of the water and Chloe will follow him, and I’ll get them both back on their leashes. Otherwise, I’m liable to be here all day.”

I was just looking for my shoes when Jenny called back.

“I’ve got them,” she said. “I don’t know what happened, but they decided to get out, and now we’re going home. I’m going to put them outside on a lead and go to work.”

It’s always good to start off your day with a little excitement. At least I’m pretty sure that Red and Chloe feel that way. I’ll bet if I go over there and ask them they’ll say, “What, Jenny was telling us to get out of the pond? Can’t say as I heard her. You should have seen that beaver go! Almost got him.”

Have a good week.